If you want to add some beautiful color to your landscape without dealing with too much messy fallen fruit, look no further than the Thunderchild Crabapple tree!
This deciduous crabtree variety offers clusters of dark pink blossoms throughout the spring. In summer, it gives way to dark red fruits. It maintains the “wow” factor in the fall with deep red foliage.
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Characteristics of the Thunderchild Crabapple Tree
The mature Thunderchild Crabapple tree can stand anywhere from 15 to 40 ft tall and wide. It tends to stay on the smaller end of that scale, making it a great tree to plant if you have limited space or are planting under power lines.
Like many crabapple trees, the Thunderchild is a spreading, somewhat weeping, deciduous ornamental that works well in backyards and gardens of all sizes.
Sometime in mid-spring, before leaves sprout, the Thunderchild Crabapple produces rosebud-like buds that soon erupt into fragrant, lavender flowers with pink highlights. The flowers grow in clusters down the tree’s drooping branches.
Marble-sized, ruby-red berries develop from the Thunderchild’s flowers and may cling to the tree throughout winter.
The Thunderchild has small (about 3 inches), ovate, three-lobed leaves that are dark green and turn to a deep purple and then red in the fall, providing visual interest well after the flowers have gone.
Birds are especially fond of the fruit that falls from the Thunderchild Crabapple tree, while bees and butterflies are drawn to its fragrant flowers.
The Thunderchild Crabapple is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Note, however, that this tree, like wide crabapple varieties, is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
History of the Thunderchild Crabapple Tree
The Thunderchild Crabapple tree was developed by Saskatchewan teacher, reporter, and musician Percy Wright (1898–1989). Although he had little to no formal training in horticulture, Wright excelled at plant breeding.
As a child, Wright was given a book on Gregor Mendel’s laws of heredity and became entranced. He would develop over 50 cultivars, including the Thunderchild Crabapple tree, which he developed in 1977.
Since its creation, this crabapple tree, with its modest size and beautiful foliage and flowers, has become popular as an ornamental in many parks, gardens, and backyards.
How to use the Thunderchild Crabapple Tree
Due to its showy, fragrant flowers and colorful leaves, the Thunderchild Crabapple tree is used primarily in ornamental and decorative landscaping. The medium-sized tree does well in myriad soils and climates. It is especially adaptable to areas where urban pollution may make it difficult for other trees to thrive.
In addition to the spectacle of the tree itself, many growers are also delighted by the wildlife it attracts. The Thunderchild provides a bountiful habitat for bees, birds, and other pollinators.
The tiny berries produced by the Thunderchild Crabapple can be eaten off the tree, but they tend to be extremely tart and not very enjoyable to humans. They can, however, be used in preserves, wine, liquor, and cider.
The fruits of this tree have a very high pectin content, so they can be added to any recipe that calls for pectin. Boil, mash, and strain the fruits and use the liquid.
Growing Your Own Thunderchild Crabapple Tree
You can plant a Thunderchild Crabapple tree from seed, cuttings, or from a young tree sold by a nursery,
Although you can successfully grow a crabapple tree from seed, it will not have the same hardiness or disease resistance as its parent tree. However, if you decide to go the seed route, gather seeds from fully mature fruits, wash them, and let them dry.
Plant dry seeds in pots in a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, or other organic compost. Moisten the soil mix, wrap the pot in plastic wrap, and set it in a warm spot. When the seeds begin to sprout, remove the plastic and continue growing until the seedlings are about 6 inches tall.
Transplant the seedlings to larger containers and pinch back the tops, encouraging side branching. When they reach about 18 inches, move the containers outdoors to acclimate the seedlings. After a couple of weeks of acclimation, they’re ready to plant in your garden.
To ensure your Thunderchild Crabapple tree has the hardiness the variety is known for, consider buying a sapling or young tree from a local nursery, where professionals have taken care to craft trees with all the characteristics you’re looking for.
Attempting to grow a crabapple tree from the cuttings of an existing tree will not typically give you the desired results.
Soil and sun
Thunderchild Crabapple trees do well in nearly every soil type but thrive in loamy, sandy loamy, and clay loamy soils. Soil should be relatively moist; avoid planting a Thunderchild Crabapple in any area with potential flooding.
On the flip side, this tree can tolerate brief periods of drought but should be protected from extreme direct heat. If you experience hotter-than-normal temperatures (90 degrees and above), provide partial shade for your tree to reduce the risk of leaf spotting and curling.
The Thunderchild Crabapple tree loves to be in full sun for 8 to 10 hours daily. Interestingly, the amount of sunlight the tree gets will determine the color of its flowers–too little sun will result in lighter-colored flowers.
Light pruning in late winter will be necessary with this tree. Depending on the tree’s age and desired outcome, you can use several methods to perform this annual maintenance.
When the tree is young, remove stem tips to encourage branching. This will make pruning even easier as the tree matures.
Thunderchild Crabapple trees need good air circulation and access to light to thrive. Thinning is removing whole branches, beginning with any dead or diseased wood.
Shearing is used to shape a tree and can be applied to the Thunderchild Crabapple tree if you want to maintain a certain look.
Rejuvenating involves removing branches from the inside and outside of a tree. This is done to reduce its size and restore it to its original form. You should never remove more than a third of your Thunderchild’s branches at a time.
Pests and diseases
Common problems that arise with the Thunderchild Crabapple include a variety of pests and diseases. The tree is, however, highly resistant to cedar-apple rust (making it a safer crabapple variety to plant if you have cedars nearby), fire blight, and powdery mildew.
The Thunderchild Crabapple tree is susceptible to apple scab, a harmful fungus that can stress the tree to the point where it becomes much more vulnerable to other, more harmful diseases.
The best way to prevent apple scab in your crabapple tree is to ensure adequate airflow between the branches and apply a fungicide.
Aphids and caterpillars are two pests that can torment your Thunderchild, too. To prevent damage from these culprits, spot-treat the Thunderchild with an organic or inorganic insecticide like neem oil.
Check the undersides of leaves for caterpillars and remove any you find. Consider introducing ladybugs to your garden or yard; they love to eat aphids! Many local garden stores sell ladybugs for this exact reason.
Wrapping Up the Thunderchild Crabapple
Adaptable, medium-sized, year-round-showy Thunderchild Crabapple trees make a wonderful addition to any garden. Plant yours near grass, and you won’t have to worry about the tiny fruits from this tree making a mess of your sidewalk or patio.
Learn more here about crabapple varieties, choosing the best one for you, and caring for your tree.